Timed Tickets
Leon Black: A Retrospective of Board Member Violence
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Edvard Munch Norwegian, 1863 - 1944
Leon D. Black, Trustee and Former Chairman

The longtime Director of Apollo Global Management had to step down because of his associations with convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Esptein, to whom he personally made recorded financial contribution of $158 million. He himself has also been accused of ongoing sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape by a woman. The case is in court.

His links to prosecuted war crimes in Iraq have met with less outrage. Under his watch, Apollo bought the private mercenary company Blackwater, renamed Constellis to give it a new mask. An art form. The company’s soldiers were charged and convicted in the massacre by American courts for indiscriminately opening fire with machine-guns and grenade launchers on a crowd of unarmed people in Nisour Square in Baghdad in 2007. Blackwater was founded by Erik Prince, whose sister, Betsy DeVos, was Donald Trump’s education secretary. Before leaving office, Trump pardoned the four mercenaries soldiers. Blackwater mercenaries have also been tied to Tiger Swan, the company contracted to crush the indigenous led anti-DAPL protests at Standing Rock. So whilst MoMA folk wanted to know him as the good patron of the museum, others got to know him via imperialism, war crimes, corruption, impunity.

To still others, Apollo and Black are known as the eviction kings. Considered one of the largest corporate landlords in America, the company is notorious for preying on low-income homebuyers using predatory “contract-for-deed” arrangements. It is one of 20 corporate landlord companies that have pursued over 3,000 evictions across the U.S. during the pandemic.

Not surprisingly, their labor policies are also predatory. In 2016, Apollo moved to cut retirement and health benefits for workers at a chemical plant in upstate New York, where some workers developed cancer from handling hazardous materials.

Black’s company has been accused of covering up accusations of sexual harassment, racism, and abuses made against the head of its insurance unit.

The fruit does not fall far from the tree. Leon’s father, Eli Black, took control of United Fruit Company, operating a vast network of Central American banana plantations, whilst using Swiss bank accounts to pay million dollar bribes to ministers in countries like Honduras.

He owns, without a sense of irony, it is believed, the famous existentialist painting “The Scream,” by Edvard Munch, on long term loan to MoMA.